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AL Central flummoxing oddsmakers


Having been involved in creating odds for over 10 years, I know that Major League Baseball games present some difficulties. For one, different starting pitchers and relievers are used each night, so it’s tough to compare an opponent’s offensive performance against those various pitchers on a day-to-day basis. Also, key offensive contributors can miss games during a season. And teams go through ups and downs over 162 games. This leads to a situation in which longtime assumptions, more than data and recency, are sometimes relied on to make the numbers.

Unlike basketball and football, which involve more plays and more regularity, a baseball team’s strength is often gauged by reputation. Early in the season, what a team did the previous campaign might be a factor. Perhaps even some personal bias plays in. This leads to something I have noticed in the first month and a half of the 2021 season: Oddsmakers have no idea what to do with the AL Central. They missed badly on Kansas City early. When the Royals were playing very well, the numbers weren’t catching up. When they finally did catch up, the Royals slumped, and bettors happily faded a sinking team that was then overpriced. Part of that included a three-game sweep by Detroit when the Royals played twice as road favorites despite going into the series on an eight-game skid.

The Tigers have been the division’s only consistent, reliable team for those setting the lines. They were expected to be bad, and they are. However, this division is shaping up differently from what most experts predicted, and oddsmakers have been very slow to adjust. In fact, it almost feels as if personal biases might be getting in the way of sensible line setting. I have found that in recent weeks, my own game estimations have been off regularly — and by significant margins in games involving the Twins, White Sox and Indians. But I am not shy about saying that although off, my numbers have been right most often. I have built a rather nice bankroll riding the White Sox and Indians while fading the Twins and Royals. I’m going to keep doing it until something shifts.

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